By Gerry Prewett.
Two teams who are looking for a turnaround in form meet on Saturday as Bristol Rovers entertain Rotherham United. The interesting aspect is that both teams started the season well (although both lost the opening fixture) but have seemed to have hit the buffers.
United have hit 5 goals three times this season as they have demolished Southend (5-0), Walsall (5-1) and Oldham (5-1). Since that Oldham game the goals have dried up with 12 in 10 games.
The Millers are winless in their last 6 League games and have drawn just two of those. Despite this the South Yorkshire team still sit in the top half of the table. They have just suffered successive home defeats, but to put it in to some perspective those games were against Shrewsbury and Wigan.
On Saturday Wigan took just 14 minutes to take the lead when Will Grigg headed in Max Power’s free-kick. The Millers were level within two minutes, with Kieffer Moore heading the ball into the path of David Ball who cut inside and smashed a shot from the edge of the area into the top corner.
The Latics were back in front 12 minutes later following a sustained spell of pressure, Alex Bruce hooking the ball home after Lee Frecklington had headed off the line. The visitors took a two goal lead when Michael Jacobs scored a third for Athletic.
Millers boss Paul Warne said after the match, “I’m obviously disappointed to lose the game. We played against a very good side. I know it’s early on but it’s the best side that have played here. We’ve played the top two, we deserved something out of the game last week and I felt we possibly deserved something out of the game this week.”
“At 3-1, if we could have got a goal back and kept knocking on the door, it might have took a different turn. The lads were pushing to get back into the game so I can’t question the lads’ character but, defensively, we weren’t good enough.”
Results between the teams are very even with 22 Rovers victories, 14 draws and 20 Rotherham in 56 games. The first ever meeting was on 21st November 1953 at Millmoor, where a Barrie Meyer goal secured a 1-1 draw. The return game at Eastville saw Paddy Hale score to give Rovers a 1-0 victory.
What was remarkable about Rovers visits to Millmoor was their lack of success in the early years. It took 19 games before they secured maximum points! During that spell there were 5 consecutive defeats followed by 6 consecutive draws. This included their worst defeat in only their second visit when they went down to a 6-2 hammering on 16 October 1954. By way of contrast the Gas have twice beaten the Millers 5-2.
In 2011/12 Rovers did the double over the South Yorkshire team. On October 14th 2011 in a rare Friday night game, Rovers equalled their best ever result against the Millers. After 10 minutes Scott McGleish opened the scoring and later doubled his tally with a penalty. Cian Bolger, Lee Brown and substitute Joe Anyinsah all added their names to the list of Rovers’ scorers. Jason Taylor and Danny Schofield, scored for the Yorkshire team in a game that the Gas dominated.
On 25th February Rovers held out in the game at the Don Valley Stadium until added time when Andy Dorman put the icing on the cake with a driven winner for the Gas. The following season the away teams won both fixtures, Rovers winning 3-1 at the New York Stadium and the Millers winning 2-1 at the Mem.
David Ball who scored against Wigan is hoping he will have earned himself an extended run in the side, “It gets frustrating, but I kept my head down and waited for an opportunity. Hopefully the Wigan game has given me a good chance of staying in the team.”
“I just want a run and I think I’ll do the business if I get that. I’m very confident about turning it around. If you look at the last two games, we’ve played the top two and I think we should have got more out of them than we have done. It’s just individual errors that are costing us dearly. There’s frustration in the dressing room. We all want to do well. We want to do well for the manager and staff because they work so hard throughout the week to get us ready.”
Winger Ryan Williams, who was dropped to the bench for last week’s game but made a big impact as a second-half substitute Boss Warne commented, “Willo had gone through a bit of bad patch. I thought he came on and did really well. I named the team on Saturday rather than Friday for the first time. He wasn’t despondent. I think he knew it was coming.”
“He reacted in the perfect way. That’s the kind of player we want at the club. He’ll be in my good thoughts for Bristol.”